Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U.N. and Russia Condemn Houla Massacre

The United Nations Security Council condemned on Monday a massacre of dozens of Syrian civilians, including children, in the country's western village of Houla.

“The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of [Houla], near Homs, in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the Council members said in a statement issued following a closed-door emergency meeting in New York.

“The members of the Security Council also condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse,” the statement said.

General Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. observer mission, told the Council members during a video link that more than 100 people, including some 30 children under the age of 10, had been killed in Houla, a cluster of villages in the Homs province, on Friday and Saturday.

An amateur video posted online showed people in Houla burying their slaughtered relatives in mass graves, as well as bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open. The brutal images triggered shock around the world, raising questions over the viability of a peace plan proposed by the joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to stop 15 months of bloodshed in Syria.
Kofi Annan, the U.N./Arab League special envoy to Syria, urged “every individual with a gun” to lay down their weapons as he arrived in Damascus Monday. He condemned the massacre of at least 108 people in Houla as “an appalling crime,” saying the government has to prove it is ready to work for peace. Annan was scheduled to meet Syria’s foreign minister and would hold talks with President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday, reports Al Jazeera.

The Assad regime, however, seems to care little, if at all, about international condemnation. Reuters reports that at least 41 people were killed in an assault on the nearby city of Hama, shortly after the U.N. Security Council condemned the massacre, according to activists.

In a sign of how much the horrific images coming out of Houla have shocked the world, even Russia, long one of Syria’s most reliable allies, said the government was at least partly to blame for the killings over the weekend, reports the Associated Press. “Both sides have obviously had a hand in the deaths of innocent people,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Iranian Troops in Syria

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander has admitted that Iran has sent its troops to help the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight opposition forces.

“Before our presence in Syria, too many people were killed by the opposition but with the physical and non-physical presence of the Islamic republic, big massacres in Syria were prevented,” Ismail Gha’ani, the deputy head of Iran’s Quds force, a shadowy branch of the Revolutionary Guards in charge of overseas operations, said in an interview with the semi-official Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA), according to a report by the Persian-language GozaraNews website.

Read more here and here.

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